It has been well-documented that Bo Jackson was a late-round draft steal for the Raiders. How the Silver and Black came to acquire the mercurial two-sport star is a story in and of itself. He came to the Raiders in the middle of the 1987 season on the heels of a players strike. It didn’t take long for him to make an impact.
Jackson, a football and baseball star and an accomplished sprinter, played his final collegiate football game on Jan. 1, 1986, a 36-16 loss to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. Jackson was named the game’s most outstanding offensive player in a losing effort.
Jackson did not attend the 1986 NFL Scouting Combine in New Orleans but did run a blistering 4.13 40-yard dash for scouts at what amounted to a regional combine at Auburn.
“I did not go because I was already picked to be the first person to go in the Draft,” Jackson said. “If you’re going to be the first person to go in the Draft, why should you go to a combine and do all of that? It wasn’t built up like it is now, now it’s a TV production, it’s a whole show.”
Jackson was selected with the first overall pick in the 1986 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but turned down their reported five-year, $5 million-offer.
The following year, his name went back in the pool for the NFL Draft. The Los Angeles Raiders selected him in the seventh round, No. 183 overall. The NFL Draft was a 12-round affair back then.
Jackson played in 25 games for the Kansas City Royals in 1986. In 1987, he appeared in 116 games and hit .235 with 22 home runs and 53 runs batted in.
In early July, the Orange County Register reported that Jackson may not play professional football, but by July 15, Jackson had agreed to play half seasons for the Raiders when Royals’ baseball seasons were complete.
Due to a 24-day players’ strike, Jackson’s Raiders’ debut would have to wait. USA Today reported on Sept. 29 that Bo Jackson would not cross the picket line during the players’ strike.
Jackson eventually made his Raiders debut Nov. 1, against the New England Patriots, but a playoff run for the 1987 Raiders was not in the cards as the team finished 5-10. He did set a then-team record for most yards rushing in a single game with a 221-yard performance against the Seahawks in Seattle on Monday Night Football on Nov. 30, during a much-hyped match-up with rookie linebacker Brian Bosworth. He played in seven games with five starts in 1987 and carried the ball 81 times for 554 yards and four touchdowns. He also caught 16 passes for 136 yards and two scores.
In 1990, he was named to the Pro Bowl despite playing in just 10 games. He helped lead the Raiders to a 12-4 record and the AFC Western Division title. Unfortunately, Jackson suffered a career-ending hip injury in the AFC Divisional playoffs against the Cincinnati Bengals. He had 77 yards on just six carries when he went down.
In all, Jackson played in 38 games with 23 starts for the Raiders and rushed for 2,782 yards on 515 carries with 16 touchdowns. He recorded two of the top-five longest runs in team history.
Although he played in parts of just four seasons for the Raiders, Jackson made an indelible impression on professional football and sports marketing. He will forever be known as one of the greatest draft steals in NFL history.